Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Prison population hits record high

The prison population in England and Wales has reached another record high

The prison population in England and Wales has reached a record high for the second week in a row.

The total number of prisoners hit 87,120 - 278 higher than last week's record high of 86,842 and about 1,600 short of the usable operational capacity of 88,747, Ministry of Justice figures showed.

The rising prison population has been fuelled by tough sentences for those involved in last month's riots, with more offenders than usual being held on remand, but the Government has insisted there will be enough jail places for anyone sentenced to custody as a result of the violence and looting.

A Prison Service spokesman said: "We are managing an unprecedented situation and all the staff involved should be commended for their dedication and hard work during this difficult time.

"We currently have enough prison places for those being remanded and sentenced to custody as a result of public disorder. We are developing contingencies to increase usable capacity should further pressure be placed on the prison estate."

No places are currently activated under Operation Safeguard, which would involve using cells at police stations as accommodation for prisoners.

Other contingency plans could involve bringing on new accommodation early, using extra places in the public and private estate, or reopening mothballed accommodation.

The usable operational capacity is the total number of prisoners that the jails in England and Wales can hold, taking into account control, security and the proper operation of the planned regime, less 2,000 places.

This reflects the constraints imposed by the need to provide separate accommodation for different prisoners, perhaps because of their sex, age, security category, conviction status, or because of a single cell risk assessment. It also reflects the geographical distribution of the places, the Prison Service said.

Two-thirds of the 1,715 people who have appeared before the courts over the riots have been remanded in custody, compared with just one in 10 of those charged with serious indictable offences last year, the latest figures show.

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